French team conquer the Arctic in a 22ft 'ice yacht'


‘Gamble won, challenge succeeded, dream realised’.

That is Sébastien Roubinet’s comment on what must stand as one of the most impressive and historic sailing achievements this year. On Sunday he and two crew succeeded in crossing the North West Passage, arriving on the west coast of Greenland on Sunday after three months and 21 days on board the tiny 22ft (7m) Kevlar-reinforced catamaran Babouche.

One of the smallest yachts ever to achieve this feat, Babouche is highly unusual. She is part sailing boat, part ice yacht, with metal runners on her hulls so that she can ‘skate’ over ice if her way is blocked.
The design was tested last year in the Alps and has confounded a good many sceptics. What makes the achievement even more impressive is that Babouche has no engine so the entire 4,500-mile trip was made under sail.

“A lot of fatigue but an incredible happiness, but also a lot of emotion for the whole team,” Roubinet reports.

For the record, though, this is not the smallest multihull to cross the NWP under sail. In 1988, two young Canadians, Jeff MacInnes and Mike Beedell, crossed it in 20ft Hobie cat, camping on ice where they could. Their journey was quite a bit shorter as they started in Inuvik and finished in Baffin Island.

Bravo to Roubinet and his team!